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Half Marathon Recovery – Ten tips to help you recover faster!

Half Marathon Recovery

Half Marathon Recovery

If you’ve spent weeks training for your half marathon and you’ve crushed your race – Congratulations! It’s time to celebrate and wind down for a week or so before heading back out to the training trenches. Both your mind and body need a break from the rigorous ins and outs of a lengthy training schedule. Not only do you need a break, but your families, friends, and loved ones probably need to also partake in a half marathon recovery even though they didn’t run the race. Training takes time away from friends, family, spouses, and overextended to-do lists. As soon as you crossed the finish line, the question probably popped up once or twice. When can I run again after a half marathon race?

When can you run again after a half marathon race?

How long will it take until you’re recovered from your half marathon race? This could be anywhere from no recovery to 10 days. In general, you’ll want to take 1 day off for every 2 miles ran. A half marathon is 13.1 miles so 6-7 days off usually works best for most runners. You can still run during this recovery time, however, you should keep your long runs to a lower mileage (under 5 miles). If you’ve gone for a run and you start to feel winded and tired, that’s a sign that your body might not be fully recovered yet. The actual number of days needed to recover from a half marathon depends on the individual and these three questions:

  • What is your current fitness level? – Depending on your fitness level you may need to take a few more days to recover from your race or if you’re in great shape, no recovery at all.
  • What type of race was it? – Was this an easy run on your way to a marathon, a tune-up run, or an all-out effort run?
  • Did you get injured or reinjure something? – Obviously, if you’ve injured or reinjured yourself it’s going to take longer to recover than normal.

Keep Moving (Immediate post-race)

After you finish the race keep walking 20-30 minutes after your race. Instead of walking you can also slow down your running pace to a light jog for another mile or so. Use this time to explore all your food/hydration options and other booths around the finishing line. This is also a great time to retrieve anything out of your car that you might need. Don’t sit down immediately after your race. The only time you would ever want to sit down after a race is because of a serious injury or other related medical problems.

Half Marathon RecoveryHydrate

While walking around after your race, be sure to replenish your fluids. Drink a sports drink or water to help begin the hydrating process. You’ll probably be thirsty for the rest of the day, especially if it happens to be a hot race and you sweated out a lot of fluids.

Refuel

You need to eat something shortly after your race ends. How much and what to eat depends on your dietary needs or lack of self-control. I totally understand if you want Half Marathon Recoveryto go eat a large pizza or a mouthwatering cheeseburger with fries. I’m not condoning or approving your eating habits. Just make sure you eat something shortly after the race ends. Most races will have something in the form of carbs either some type of fruit or yogurt as well as chips and power bars. I’ve been to some races where they’re handing out grilled chicken sandwiches.

Drink a beer!

Yes, this is one of my favorite things to do post-race. If beer is offered, I keep myself to a two beer limit immediately post-race. First, it has a relatively high glycemic index to help your body refuel much needed depleted carbs. Secondly, it tastes great. So it beer best choice for nutritional refueling? No. 

Keep Moving (Mid-day post-race and the days following)

Every 3 hours or so get up and walk around for 5-10 minutes. This will help blood flow. Follow this pattern for the next couple of days. If your body feels good enough, consider a light paced recovery run not lasting more than 30 minutes. Some people can tolerate a recovery run while others will need to stick to just walking the next couple of days.

Elevate Your Legs

After walking around for another 20 to 30 minutes post-race, another great way to help circulate blood back into your legs is to elevate them for 10 minutes at a time. I find the easiest way to do this is to find a wall and lay with your back on the ground. Prop your legs up on the wall and let the blood drain down and recirculate back into your legs. This also helps your half marathon recovery because elevating your legs takes the weight off and lets your legs rest from the burden of the race. While your legs are elevated you can do some stretching by rotating your ankles up and down to help the hamstrings and calf muscles

When at home or your hotel you continue to elevate your legs as needed. Every runner is different so experiment with any of these as you so desire.

Half Marathon Recovery While Traveling

If you’re traveling the same day or the next morning after a half marathon race, you’ll need to get up and walk around every 2-3 hours. If you’re on a plane get up and move around. Also, if you have the option to purchase the extra legroom like an exit aisle or bulkhead seat, it might be worth the upgrade or the extra money. If you’re traveling in a car stop and take a restroom break to walk around. This is not only good for your circulation but to help keep your mind alert while you drive. If you’re traveling in a car see if anyone can accompany you ( running partner, spouse ) so that you can switch off driving.

Stretch

Stretching after walking around post-race is another great way to work out any cramping or physical aches or soreness. My favorite 4 post-workout static stretches are:Half Marathon Recovery

  • Glute and Piriformis Stretch

  • Quad Stretch

  • Calf Stretch

  • Hamstring Stretch

Runner’s World has an article about static stretching with great examples.

Does post-race/running stretching prevent injury?

What does post-race static stretching do? In short, it makes you more flexible. Does post running stretching prevent injury? There is no correlation that proves evidence towards reducing injuries. There are various schools of thought on post-race static stretching and you need to listen to your body when it comes to partaking in the activity. Some of the top-end elite runners do not do any static stretching at all, while others do some form of light stretching. If you do perform some type of half marathon recovery stretching, remember to stretch and hold for 10-30 seconds. Static stretching should never be performed prior to running, only dynamic stretching (knee hikes, side gallops, etc.).

Half Marathon RecoveryMassage/Foam Roller

If your legs aren’t too sore, consider using a foam roller to help push around the facial tissue and restart fresh blood flow to your legs. There are many different styles of rollers to choose from. They come in various feels and lengths. Some are softer than others while some trigger specific parts of the lower body, back, and upper body. A few types of rollers and massage devices are handheld, floor rollers, canes, trigger point balls, etc. These are my favorite Foam Rollers.

If you’re injured don’t try to massage or rollout the pain. doing this could further exacerbate the injury.

Speed up your half marathon recovery with air compression boots

My friend that’s a cyclist swears by air massage compression boots. These are slimmed-down versions of the ones that the pro athletes use for recovery and rehab. I don’t own one but I got a chance to use my friend’s compression boots after the long run. I can’t tell you well these made my legs feel especially my calf muscles. Compression boots can help speed up half marathon recovery by helping to reduce the overall recovery time by helping circulate blood flow to the legs. Compression boots also can help relieve muscle fatigue as well as relax your muscles. Here are two models that are decently priced (Fit King Leg Air Massager foot and calf and the Fit King Leg Air Massager foo,t calf, and thigh). Other models extend into the upper one thousand dollar mark. These leg recovery systems are truly meant for long-distance runners and semi-pro/pro runners who compete. In fact, their systems are probably much more expensive than the ones the pros actually use.

Keep your head focused on what’s next in your running career

Not only is it important to let your body recover from a half marathon race, but your mind is in just as much need for some time off. Spend the next week doing things you’ve put off during your half marathon training. Go ahead and start looking for the next race that you want to train for even if it’s months down the road. Be careful with getting down on yourself if your race didn’t go as well as planned (checked this article I wrote about 5 questions to ask yourself after a bad run).

Post-Race Blues

If you haven’t heard of the post-race blues that’s a good thing. If you’re feeling kind of cranky about having to take time off to recover and your feeling anxious about not being able to run, you might have a slight case of the post-race blues. This happens to all athletes at one point or another. If you’re feeling lousy or extremely fatigued you might need to check out this article I wrote about 10 ways to eliminate post-race blues. Sometimes just talking about the race with your coach or other runners can help snap you back into a better mood. Other runners and coaches have probably gone through the post-race blues so they can relate to how you’re feeling.

Celebrate – Medal Monday!

Did I mention do celebrate? Drink a beer, gloat in your victory, show off that shiny new medal! A finish line is a glorious place until you get the bug for your next big race. If you’re from England and you’ve absolutely smashed your race time, don’t forget to parade around with your medal on Monday! Even if though I’m not from the UK, I think I’m going to make this a new habit of mine.

RRCA Coach ScottScott is a published author and RRCA certified running coach. He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 11th half marathon race. 

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